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The BirdLife International seabird tracking database was established following the landmark Tracking Ocean Wanderers publication which brought together over 90% of the extant albatross and petrel tracking data for 16 species. Data was submitted to the Global Procellariiform Tracking Workshop, held 1–5 September 2003 in Gordon's Bay, South Africa and then placed in a GIS database to facilitate analysis, visualisation and interpretation of data.

Antipodean Albert; © Ben Lascelles

The data was compiled in recognition of the serious threats seabirds faced at sea, particularly from bycatch in fisheries, which had been identified as one of the main drivers of their declines. The workshop and subsequent GIS database aimed to use tracking data to better understand at sea distributions throughout the year, and thus identify key sites where threats were likely to be having greatest impact and hence where conservation solutions, such as bycatch mitigation techniques and Marine Protected Area designations, should be targeted.

This work proved vital in convincing fisheries bodies, and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) in particular, that seabird bycatch was a serious issue for which they had a responsibility to tackle. Over the following years data were presented at a range of RFMO meetings and laid the foundation for new regulations regarding the implementation of seabird bycatch mitigation measures in high risk areas, as well as the use of observers on board fishing boats to study the issue in further detail.

Video: Great-shearwater migration (animation)

The birds tracked from Tristan da Cunha Colony. Data collected by Rob Ronconi and Peter Ryan (see here). Note that all birds cross a narrow area in the tropical Atlantic during both migratory movements. For more information read the paper available here.

© Richard Phillips

The database has since continued to expand to cover a greater range of Procellariiform species as new data have been collected. In 2009 it was made public for the first time, having its own website front end developed, where data could be queried, viewed and requested.

This has allowed the forging of further links to national and regional policy and management mechanisms, particularly through the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP). The database is now used to monitor progress on tracking data collected for ACAP listed species, identify gaps for future study, and target further conservation action.


Funders – Wallace Research Foundation, Lenfest Ocean Program, AV Jensen Foundation, Packard Foundation




© Richard Phillips

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